(The Confessional Lutherans for Christ’s Commission is one of the many confessional groups that regularly posts on this website. Like BJS they seek to equip laymen to know and support Confessional Lutheranism. CLCC posts are archived on the Regular Columns page of this website.)
In our society, people have become very uncomfortable about admitting to the existence of sin in their lives. Our egos are too important for that, hence we can’t allow anyone to tell us we are wrong in what we do or believe. That belief is prevalent, and sadly, it is even permeating into the church. Many churches accept behaviors now that the Word says are sinful. They accept these behaviors because the world says they are okay. They don’t listen to the Word of God anymore, but have decided that since times are different, God also must be different. (In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25) They don’t realize that when the Law and sin disappear from the Christian faith, so does the need we have for receiving the precious Gospel. (The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 1 Timothy 1:15)
Many people don’t think that losing the Law hurts the Gospel. After all, God is love, isn’t He? (So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1 John 4:16) We are saved by grace. While this is most certainly true, they don’t realize that unless we are sinners, we have no need of a Savior who forgives those sins. He forgives us, because we have grace (God’s undeserved love) through faith. Yet, in order to receive that gift of grace, we are to be penitent, humble sinners at the foot of the cross. (And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17)
The belief that many people, as well as churches, used to have in original sin has also disappeared. With that, the realization, the Truth stated in Scripture that death entered the world through sin is also gone. (The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:56-57) With the denial of “Original Sin”, (Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalm 51:5) they see no reason why infants have need of Baptism either. Yet, we know babies are sinners, since babies are able to die. People need to see the wages of sin when they see death. (For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23)
Once sin becomes something that we think can be overcome, Jesus becomes an example on how to live our life. Then hope is found in the world around us. The comfort received is not in their Baptismal grace, when they were adopted by God as His child, and cleansed of their sin and unrighteousness, but in the friends they have made and the life they have lived in the world. The world is the place we serve our neighbors through our vocations, which is a good thing, but it isn’t meant to be where we place our hope.
When the Holy Spirit is not allowed to work in us through the Law and show us our sinfulness, we naturally start to rely on our own self and count on our own righteousness. When the flesh is not killed, the new self cannot rise to new life. Our new life is in Christ given to us on the day we were baptized. He is our hope and our salvation. We need the Law, in order to be given that most precious gift of forgiveness. How can we be forgiven if we don’t admit to being in need of forgiveness? (If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10)
During Lent, as well as at all other times, we need to be aware of why Christ came to die for us. We need to be at the foot of the cross and fix our eyes on Jesus. (looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2)
I pray that we Christians start to appreciate the importance of the Law, even as it makes us see our fallen sinfulness, because then we can rejoice in the sweet, precious Gospel, and the One who not only came to save us, but did save us through His suffering, death, and resurrection for time and eternity!
March 16, 2011